Although an accomplished acoustic guitarist whose solo albums incorporate elements of folk, jazz, and European classicism, his greatest impact has come from founding Windham Hill Productions. The company—which includes Lost Lake Arts Records, Magenta Records, Open Air Records, Rabbit Ears Productions, and Windham Wind Records—has dominated the new age genre since the late 1970s.
Born in Germany, Ackerman started out as a carpenter, forming Windham Hill Builders in the early 1970s. He also found time to compose guitar music for theatrical productions at nearby Stanford University; as a result, friends encouraged him to record his material. The resulting album, The Search for the Turtle’s Navel (Windham Hill; 1976), was originally distributed privately in the Palo Alto area as a cassette.
Ackerman soon expanded his base of operations, handling business matters as well as producing other artists, including Alex de Grassi, Liz Story, and George Winston, whose Winter (Windham Hill 1025; 1983; #54) was the label’s first big seller, spending 178 weeks on the Billboard album charts through 1990. Although he would relinquish CEO duties in 1986, he has remained active with the company as Artist & Repertoire head.
Although Ackerman’s own LPs have not hit the mainstream pop charts, they have continued to sell moderately well over the years. His work often features only subdued steel-string guitar instrumentals; however, it is sometimes accompanied by spare violin, cello, piano, and English horn parts. His album releases—all generally cut from the same fabric—include It Takes a Year (Windham Hill; 1977), Childhood and Memory (Windham Hill; 1979), Passage (Windham Hill 1014; 1981), Past Light (Windham Hill 1028; 1983), Conferring with the Moon (Windham Hill 1050; 1986), Imaginary Roads (Windham Hill 1078; 1988), The Opening of Doors (Windham Hill; 1992), Windham Hill Retrospective (Windham Hill; 1993), Sound of Wind-Driven Rain (Windham Hill; 1998), and Hearing Voices (Windham Hill; 2001).
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